Behind HEX’s Innovative, Anti-Microbial Technical Collection

Co-founder Trent Valladares provides insight on the brand's most tech-forward bags

Presented in partnership with HEX

On a continued mission to create more tech-forward bags, the team at HEX is set to release their new Technical Collection, which comprises three highly functional, anti-microbial pieces—the Backpack, Messenger and Daily Duffel. While each bag boasts technical elements galore (including features traditionally found only in specialty equipment), they remain minimal and sleek enough for everyday use. Every one of these bags is super-durable, water-resistant and anti-microbial (for more hygienic travels and commutes), plus they all feature a charging pocket, anti-theft clips and EVA-padded storage compartments. HEX has managed to nail the essentials—performance, innovation, aesthetics—and more, for an accessible price.

Courtesy of HEX

The Backpack, a staple for everyday use, fits everything needed for a day away from home and looks great in any environment. It’s also large enough to stow essentials for an overnight trip. The Messenger, the smallest and lightest of the collection, is perfect for neighborhood errands and days out when you have fewer things to lug around. The Duffel, perfect for a weekend away, is deceptively roomy and is structured such that it looks great regardless of how much stuff is in it. With plenty of pockets and compartments (including the ventilated shoe garage), this bag takes practical storage to another level.

To find out more about the design process and anti-microbial technology and how it works, we spoke with HEX co-founder Trent Valladares ahead of the exciting release.

Courtesy of HEX

Tell us a little about the design process for this new collection—we’re interested to hear about research, development and testing of the anti-microbial fabrics, and are wondering if or how the material informed the design of the bags? 

The initial concept was to integrate higher-end exterior materials like 1680D Cordura® ballistic nylon and then pair it with our technology needs. To do this we worked hard to incorporate our charging pocket on all three bags to stealthily hold a wireless charger—we even went ahead and made our own charger which fits perfectly in the pocket. As we started to see the collection taking shape, we felt like this was a great vehicle to debut our new anti-microbial technology.

Overkill? Maybe. But we wanted to try to think of everything.

From there, we continued to think through how we wanted the bags to function even to the smallest details. For example, the EVA molded back panel utilizes air channeling for breathability. A feature like this is generally found on a specialty equipment bag, like a camera bag. We brought it into a daily pack. We added other advanced features like our hideaway rain-fly which allows for even more water-resistance but tucks away out of sight when not in use. We thought to use the logo on the rain-fly as an opportunity for reflective ink to increase your visibility in grey, rainy conditions. Overkill? Maybe. But we wanted to try to think of everything.

Even often-overlooked details like the interior wall pockets or organizer pockets have been specifically laid out so that they are perfect for hard drives, phones, tablets and chargers. Not just that you can throw these items in any random pocket in a random bag, but that the pockets are truly designed to better hold and organize all of these types of items—which are necessities of modern life. There is a shoe garage in the Duffel, cinch straps on the Messenger, and they all have the charging pocket as well.

by Josh Rubin

Considering how much technology is involved, and how robust these bags are, how did you keep the pricing reasonable? 

Like all HEX products, we strive to bring maximum innovation into the smallest form factor at a great value to our customers. So price is always important. Having something as revolutionary as anti-microbial technology is not nearly as much of a game-changer if only a few people can afford it.
We wanted the bags to be sleek and unobtrusive—able to go easily from professional to casual situations and environments. And we designed them to perform in that way.

For example, the duffel is designed to hold plenty of clothing to take you from the office to the gym. The shoe garage keeps your clothes from touching your shoes, and the water bottle pocket lays flat when not in use to keep the silhouette clean. But maybe the coolest part is that the double front organizer pockets are literally designed to hold anything you need to use the bag almost as a briefcase for business, keeping your clothes out of sight underneath. This way you only need one bag and it truly functions beautifully at both the office and the gym. We gave options through our colorways to go black, gunmetal or even into our glacier camo—which we adopted from the overwhelming success it enjoys in our camera space. So you can express your personality any way you like.

Courtesy of HEX

Relatively recently, we have become even more hyper-aware regarding hygiene, so this collection obviously comes at an ideal time. How long have you been interested in, and then testing and designing with anti-microbial fabric? Can you tell us a little about that journey?

Believe it or not, this idea had been in our pipeline before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. Obviously there was a time consuming process of evaluating and testing our options for achieving the level of resistance we were looking for. Should we use pellets or applied treatments? Which manufacturers had products of consistent quality? And of course, it needed to work. With the rise of COVID, came heightened awareness about the importance of personal hygiene. Think of it like this—why would you sanitize your hands only to go and touch your bag, which has touched all the same things (or worse)! In the end, we arrived at a technology that is integrated at the dye-level of the fabric process. This actually targets harmful microbes by altering their ability to convert nutrients into energy, inhibiting microbial survival and reproduction. This is effective at resisting or repelling up to 99% of bacteria, mold and fungus. So the bags are actively helping you fight off harmful germs as you go about your day.

Most antimicrobial processes (including ours) have not yet been specifically tested on COVID-19, therefore no claims are being made regarding effectiveness against it. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the use of antibacterial and antimicrobial products as part of a generalized preventative routine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Since our commutes and travels (or lack there of) have changed dramatically over the past several months, were the styles and functions of the bags thought out differently by the brand?

We were really working to reduce the number of bags you need, this made even more sense with fewer and shorter commutes. The idea is to have everything you need easily at hand for a Zoom call or a coffee shop meeting. Have your laptop, phone, tablet, paperwork, cards, cables and drives easily accessible. But also not interfering with an opportunity to actually get you to or from a run or a workout. Having a bag that can do it all makes a lot of sense.

Courtesy of HEX

Beyond the material, what features are you most excited about regarding the new collection—the charging banks?

Yeah, I think the charging capability is great. Not only because it is a cool tech feature, but it also works to improve hygiene by keeping your power needs personal to your space—no more using “community” chargers. I also just really like how the total package came together for each bag. Yes, they all have great features, but they are each just exceptional bags when viewed as a complete product. They just work very well, are the right sizes and look good.

Take a look at the HEX Technical Collection online now. The Backpack, Messenger and Duffel are available for the early-bird price $99 on Kickstarter now and will later retail for $149. Each piece is thoughtfully and innovatively designed with real life scenarios in mind.